Hurricane Irma has been a tragic event for several of the nations of the Caribbean. Barbuda, St. Thomas, St. John, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin/St. Maarten, and St. Barts are not ready to receive visitors yet (except people who are coming down to help with reconstruction and provide aid). The same is true of the Florida Keys, particularly the lower Keys and Key West.
This won’t be true forever.
Key West is hoping to have visitors again by the time Fantasy Fest rolls around in late October. St. Barts seems ahead of some of its neighbors in terms of getting infrastructure restored — I won’t be surprised if it’s the first of these Caribbean nations hit by Irma to reboot its tourist industry.
Perhaps St. Thomas and St. John after that, though I do think these islands and the others on the list will be off the tourist map for some time to come.
That’s the bad news. The good is that Irma touched only a handful of the thousands of islands that make up the Caribbean. The map above offers a good illustration — the islands in yellow are those profoundly affected by the storm. So if you’re plans include a trip to popular destinations like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Aruba, or Barbados, you’re in the clear (here is an island-by-island status update, post-Irma).
Even many islands that were in the storm’s path but didn’t get the full brunt of the hurricane’s eye-wall winds are receiving visitors again: Antigua, for example, is fine despite the destruction on the sister island of Barbuda. St. Croix is not only still receiving tourists but is also serving as a base for recovery operations in the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. John).
Turks and Caicos suffered from the storm, too, but South Caicos moreso than Grand Turk (where the cruise ship terminal is reopening) or Providenciales (where the airport has reopened and major resorts expect to be back online by the end of September). Havana and other parts of Cuba’s north coast were damaged by wind, rain, and storm surges, but most of this large island nation were relatively untouched by the storm, too.
My message is simple: give generously to those islands devastated by Irma (see the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association website for information on how to give and for the latest updates on Irma recovery), but don’t let Irma do double damage by buying into the myth that “the Caribbean has been wiped out” by the storm.
Some islands certainly have been hit hard, but this is a big place with a big heart. You can fly to the Caribbean right now and have a great vacation (obviously check with your hotel and airline first), and despite these tough times the spirit of the Caribbean people will prevail even in the hardest-hit areas.
There’s never been a better time to show your love for the islands, whether that means opening your pocketbook to make a donation for relief efforts, or keeping the region in your travel plans and contributing to the local economy, which in many places is largely dependent on your tourism dollars. One Love.